Tuesday, November 18, 2008

21st Century Hallways

Have I said today I love my PLN? For those of you not familiar with the twitter-lingo, PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. My PLN has roots in a SMART Teacher Conference held in Calgary 3 summers ago and a Discovery Education National Institute held aboard a cruise ship to the Bahamas summer before last. It was at these major events I began to experience the vast educator network that was mine for the joining. Most PLNs begin with emails among teachers, and then branch out to other educators with similar areas of expertise. Twitter, Plurk, SMART Exchange, Discovery Educator Network, Classroom 2.0, and my Google Reader feeds comprise the largest chunk of my PLN. Begin your collaboration with other educators and join the global conversation today.
Today a feature article was posted online in the SMART EdCompass newsletter. On page 3 is an article titled 21st Century Hallways. Being interviewed for an article such as this is an humbling, exciting experience. As I reflected on what social networking has meant to my career, I discovered that my network connects me to people smarter than I am who help me do my job better. Reading others' Twitter and Plurk posts remind me of how much I still don't know. That's okay. I am free to dip into that river any time and dip out what I need at that time. When I find jewels, I pass along those to my PLN. Through it, I am also connected to a flowing stream of useful SMART Board links, Web 2.0 applications, inspiration, and comic relief. But don't get me wrong, I'm not a sponge. I don't sip, soak, and sour. It is in the sharing of these ideas with my local district that I am able to pass on the gems I've found in my PLN.
If you'd like to read the article, follow this link.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lots to Love with Links

Last week's SMART Board challenge involved creating button links from a home page that helped younger students navigate the maze of activities we teachers use to create learning activities that appeal to a wide range of learning styles. At first thought, I considered it busy work on my part, but after working with my Molly's Pilgrim Notebook activity, I reconsidered. Allowing students to choose which activity to do next puts more of the lesson in their control. Increased ownership brings increased motivation and learning. What's not to love?
I encourage you to try it with an existing 4 or 5 page Notebook lesson. Create some buttons, or use some from the LAT, to speed your process. Then link each named button to its matching page. On that page, include all the linked buttons again so that pages may be easily moved between for review or reteach. My lesson focused on reading skills - fact/opinion, sequence, vocabulary, questions, and a match game. Therefore, the buttons at the bottom of each page were the same as the ones on the home page screenshot.
Molly's Pilgrim is one of our book studies prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Students will be making pilgrim dolls at home next weekend for show and share the next Monday. I'm looking forward to their creations once again this year. If you have suggestions or links for additional Molly's Pilgrim activities, kindly post a comment. Thank you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Word Clouds

Classroom uses will abound with this site. Shown here are my delicious tags. If you haven't experimented yet, give it a twirl. wordle.net
My third graders will use this site again next week to put together a collection of action verbs. If only wordle could be programmed to make the nouns flash. Now that would be awesome!
Another Thursday evening, reflecting on the successes of the week. Makes me tired just thinking about them all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Can't Teach Without IT

Someone quoted me yesterday as having said I can't teach without my social network/PLN. My first reaction was to say no, but that I can't teach without my SMART Board. I can teach without my PLN, but having an active one makes my job so much easier. It's great to be able to connect to fellow educators who are there to offer support, help, and much-needed wit and wisdom to each other. My PLN keeps me on the cutting edge of my field, and in turn, I keep the kids on the edge of their seat.

Honestly, I really can't teach without my SMART Board. I tried unplugging one day last week. Not good. Although, when I have a substitute teacher, the same thing happens. Once I asked the class which they missed more - the SMART Board or me. Without hesitation, they replied the Board. And then they said, no, we miss you more. haha.

To turn back the clock 5 years transports me to an era of being the sage on the stage, trying to keep my students' focus with a dry erase board, overhead projector, and handmade centers. I've undergone a transformation since the day My First SMART Board arrived. I'm now the guide on the side, with the kids at the Board actively constructing their learning. I'm on the sidelines as their coach and cheerleader spotting their moves with my SMART Slate.

If you were a fly on the wall in my class, you'd see the Board at work when the kids arrive. SMART Notebook and SMART Ideas software are used in 90% of daily lessons. Ahhh, the power of Notebook. Whether you wish to create flashing text, disappearing ghosts, spinners, shrink and grow activities - the possiblities are endless. And that didn't include embedding flash files, You Tube videos, or Discovery Streaming segments to enhance the learning. Some days the Board goes home tired from overuse. Like today. Like me.

Super Spinners

If you're like me, when it's time to locate a spinner for class use, your spinner stash has been misplaced. But then again, the spinner you needed wasn't the spinner you had. Sound familiar? Or maybe you have every students' names on a separate folded index card in a pail and when you wish to randomize selection, you draw out a name? Or have you used the Excel sheet you enter your students' names on and then click the button for a random selection.

No matter your previous method for random name selection, I'd like to present the SMART solution for spinners. The spinner has been so captivating for them, I'm thinking of sending it to their student computers for their own use. No doubt they could design their own lesson activity and then record their thoughts using SMART Recorder. I'll have to try that idea soon and report back on its success.

You can make your own customized spinner using the object animation features in Notebook 10. Have you ever wished for a fraction spinner, or maybe a shape spinner? Better yet, a Wheel of Fortune number wheel. (Can't wait to try that one!) No matter what kind of spinner you need, it's fairly simple to create your own. Begin your search in the Gallery and locate fraction pieces. Then drag a completed circle of fraction pieces to your Notebook page. Change colors if desired. If you wish to add numbers, enter your number and group the two together. If you wish to add pictures or names, do the same thing until you have edited all the fraction pieces. Then arrange in a circle and group all objects together. Under the object animation tab, choose spin, clockwise, slow, when the object is clicked, and until the object is clicked. Add an arrow for a pointer, or use a finger from the sign language alphabet. Be sure to save your completed spinner in the My Content folder for easy access.

A word of warning: Due to a bug in Notebook 10, "until the object is clicked" will not retain its setting. So prior to each use, you must reset that animation feature.

My first spinner was 4 colors with the numbers 1-4 on it. The next spinner was with my students' names. At the conclusion of math each day, we have time for a few Board races. Instead of calling on volunteers, now I drag the spinner and the finger onto the Notebook page and just Click and Spin. Instant hit, until the bell rang. The students are already looking forward to Math again tomorrow.

Thanks, Jim, for another useful challenge from Teachers Love SMARTBoards.